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Quiet as a Nun - Antonia Fraser

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Genre: Fiction / Author: Antonia Fraser / Paperback / 176 Pages / Book is published 1998-10 by W. W. Norton & Company

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      28.03.2009 11:41
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      Boring plot; unbelievable characters; irritating overall .

      The title and gothic cover design (on my copy) may very well be the best things about this novel. The premise - that the death of a nun is more mysterious and important than outsiders initially realise - is potentially interesting, but turns out to be dull. There is very little mystery once it is revealed (early on) that the nun had written a will which would, if found and enacted, end the convent's existence. Everyone wants the will, but where is it? And who or what is the mysterious 'black Nun' that has been spotted haunting the convent?

      The dull 'heroine' Jemima Shore is dragged from her supposedly exciting life in London, where she is a television celebrity of sorts and illicit lover of a married MP, to 'investigate'. This is because she attended the convent's school as a girl and still has some sympathies with them, despite clearly preferring her own somewhat mediocre life choices. Her 'investigations' consist largely of chatting to nuns and children, doubting what they say and thinking that she knows best, which doesn't make for an exciting novel.
      The story reaches a new low point when the villain is introduced and responds in a very leisurely way to the demands of his role. Put simply, he is unbelievable. The subsequent conclusion is as turgid as the previous story and the only moment of excitement arose when I failed to believe a marvelous coincidence that neatly resolves the events in a manner that the characters appreciate.

      The writing style is perhaps overly formal for allowing the audience to identify with a first person narrator who is meant to be a personable celebrity. Fraser uses the end of each chapter to create a dramatic moment or question, but since I did not care about the characters or the plot, these had no effect on me.

      If you are interested in learning about life in convents, the novel does give you some insight into this, but even then there are probably more informative or imaginative sources. Overall, this was a disappointment.

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